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Teaching Around the World with Kim Cofino

TeachHUB Interview

Teaching Around the World with Kim CofinoFor the last 10 years, Kim Cofino has taken her tech teaching experience on the road, from Germany to Malaysia to Thailand, with Japan next on the list.

Kim teaches at international schools around the world. She shares her teaching adventures and philosphy in this TeachHUB interview.

 

When you first left for study abroad more than a decade ago, did you ever imagine you’d still be teaching around the world?

Before leaving on my study abroad I never would have thought I'd be living overseas permanently, but on arrival in Florence (literally upon setting foot on the tarmac) I knew it would be a longer adventure than I thought at first.

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What is the most exciting aspect of teaching in different countries around the world?

I absolutely love interacting with people from different cultures and backgrounds on a daily basis. Our school communities are so diverse that every day is a multi-cultural adventure. Plus, I just love the challenges and rewards that living overseas brings. Nothing is ever quite as I would expect it to be and the most interesting experiences are always just around the corner.

What is the most difficult aspect of teaching in different countries around the world?

Mostly it's hard to be away from family. Other than that, even the challenges of living in a culture completely different from my own are always worth it!

How are students different in the different countries you’ve taught?

I would say our students are more the same than they are different. The biggest difference I can see is that in Europe students were more a part of the local culture. Living in Germany means that you need to speak German and that you adapt to the local lifestyle, but living in southeast Asia (in my case, Thailand and Malaysia), there really is no need to speak the local languages and you can pretty much live according to your home culture without any real need to adapt on an individual level. Having said that, there are always cultural influences that affect behavior and attitude - it's not possible to completely live outside of the host culture, I just saw more impact in Europe than I do in southeast Asia. 

How are they the same?

Our students are extremely well traveled, usually having lived in a number of countries before they finish elementary school. They are worldly in a way I never was as a child, and because of that they are often willing to take more risks than I would normally expect. They also just seem to have a lot more "life experience" at a younger age. They are truly a pleasure to teach.

Can you tell me a little about international schools? How do these schools (that use curriculum models from the US, UK, Canada or Australia/New Zealand) differ from American schools?

Basically these schools follow either an International Baccalaureate (IB), American, UK, Canada, or Australian/New Zealand curriculum, so there are many similarities. We teach in English with the ultimate goal of our students attending top universities in those countries. The biggest difference is the diversity among the staff and student population. I wrote a whole post about international schools here: 

http://kimcofino.com/blog/2009/01/25/the-world-of-international-schools/ 

Your current position is the 21st Century Literacy Specialist. The project seems to be bringing the traditional library into the Web 2.0 world. Can you tell me about it?

Basically the focus of the position is to bridge the gap between technology and library - two disciplines that have much in common but often do not work together. In this role, I work with classroom teachers to authentically embed technology into their classroom experience in collaboration with our librarian. I also wrote a whole post about this job here: 

http://kimcofino.com/blog/2008/04/02/defining-the-role-of-a-21st-century-literacy-specialist/ 

What role do you think technology has in education – both in the US and internationally?

Technology is impacting society in so many ways, and so rapidly, that unless schools start to adapt to those changes, they will become irrelevant. With all of the advantages that online or blended learning brings, schooling will no longer be dependent on location - this will most likely have huge impact on international schools, because parents and students may soon have the option to simply continue their schooling online from their home country, instead of having to attend school in the country they currently live.

What do you miss most about being in the US? Do you ever think you’ll make your way back to a classroom here?

I miss my family and in some ways the ease of living in the US (simply because I can understand everything from language to culture, not necessarily lifestyle). My husband and I do not have any plans to be teaching back in the US anytime soon.

Sum up your teaching philosophy in a single sentence:

My goal is to teach students how to learn , to be engaged and independent and to love learning.

Find out more about Kim's teaching experience abroad at her blog and share your own international adventures in the comments section!